SAN PEDRO (CBSLA) — Last week, the Terminal Island Correctional Facility in San Pedro had 57 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19. In just seven days, that number has skyrocketed nearly 700 percent.
On April 21, CBSLA investigative reporter David Goldstein broke the story about the federal prison’s outbreak — which he says is the largest of any federal prison in the nation.
Inmates’ families expressed concern about their loved ones’ living conditions as the threat of the virus within the prison walls continues to grow.
“He said the conditions were horrible, inhumane,” said Jackie Vasquez, whose brother is serving time at Terminal Island for a drug offense.
She said he and others have to be moved to a prison factory that’s infested with rats to be separated from the sick inmates.
“I’m not asking for much,” Vasquez said. “I’m not asking for him to be moved into a hotel and be treated like a prince, but these are inhumane conditions. Nobody should be treated like that.”
As of April 28, 443 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus. With a total population of 1,055, the sick make up nearly half of the inmates in the facility.
10 staff members have also tested positive — a number that has more than doubled since last week. Two inmates have died.
Terminal Island is a low security facility. Prison officials say they’ve tested over 1,000 inmates and continue to follow CDC guidelines.
They provided a photo from inside one of the temporary living quarters, and they’ve admitted social distancing in prison is difficult.
“Clearly, they’re doing a terrible job right now,” said Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan, who represents San Pedro.
She said she hasn’t been able to contact the warden to find out what’s being done to improve conditions.
“It’s not acceptable, and it’s clear to me that they’re not doing everything possible to make sure these inmates are protected,” she said.
Vasquez, and other families, said they think the inmates have been forgotten.
“I just feel they’re not paying much attention to them because they’re criminals,” she said.
The Bureau of Prisons says they’ve taken steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, including issuing masks to inmates and staff. They’re reviewing all inmates to determine which ones qualify for home confinement.